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On Sunday afternoon the Dolphins produced one of the best debut outings seen from an expansion side, defying the odds and popular opinion to down the representative-laden Roosters 28-18.

Viewed as one of the favourites to win it all in 2023, it came as little surprise that few saw the Roosters tripping up in Round 1 against the Dolphins, who were expected to struggle early on as combinations were built, in a roster which as it was had failed to excite many due to the perceived lack of a genuine superstar. 

But what transpired at Suncorp Stadium was in many ways a performance straight out of the Wayne Bennett playbook. 

Discipline has always been a core focus for Bennett-coached sides, and his previous three seasons with the Rabbitohs saw them rank in the top five for fewest penalties conceded each year.

Bennett compares Dolphins and Broncos first wins

That ethos flowed straight through to the Dolphins on opening day, with referee Chris Butler pinging them just twice for infringements, compared to the Roosters' seven penalties, which included one in the final 20 minutes that saw back-rower Egan Butcher spend 10 minutes in the bin for foul play. 

Off the back of that penalty count the newcomers were able to eke out key advantages in possession (56 percent) and enjoy 12 extra sets with the ball across the 80 minutes, with hooker Jeremy Marshall-King the main beneficiary as he punished weary Roosters defenders with his work around the ruck. 

The high median age of the Dolphins' first-choice forward pack was viewed as a potential weakness in the lead up to the season, and on Sunday they fielded five big men aged 30 or over, with their starting pack having an average age of 29.

Dolphins in again

But that experienced proved vital in the win, and unsurprisingly it was players who enjoyed success in the Storm system previously who stood out.  

Early on the Roosters had an attacking plan built in part around generating plays off late ball playing at the line from the likes of Victor Radley and Brandon Smith.

But Dolphins back-rower Felise Kaufusi was all over that, managing to quell the threat for the most part with some intelligent reads and bruising hits. 

Kaufusi goes bang

The Bromwich brothers, Jesse and Kenny, churned through the work with a combined tally of 62 tackles and 242 metres, while off the bench prop Mark Nicholls changed the game in his two stints, scoring a try and powering to 174 run metres, in contrast to a Roosters bench who all failed to go for more than 75 metres with ball in hand. 

Up next the Dolphins face another 2022 top eight side in the Raiders, but regardless of what happens for the rest of the year, they produced a performance to mark their NRL arrival which will be remembered for a long time.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Dolphins respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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